Saturday, May 30, 2015

Korta and Noštromo, Split

Thursday 21 May

It was rainy and cold, so we didn't want to walk far from Asmosia's venue for lunch.  So we went back to Korta, and ordered glasses of their own Korta Paradox (which was almost our whole day yesterday) red wine.  One main was grilled lamb chops with a drizzle of sauce, served on a potato pancake (we're just trying to keep warm).
The other was a more inventive tranche of smoked fresh monkfish with caraway seeds and fresh lemon thyme on a bed of barley with golden raisins, with creamed sea-fennel and leek.
That evening we went for a more upmarket (actually, across from the fish market) experience, the restaurant Noštromo, a local favorite for special occasions.  Though we didn't have a reservation, the head waiter looked us over and nodded us in, bearing out our observation that if you are in a city, you get no breaks if you look like you're going to the beach or for a hike (we are tourists, but we don't wear sneakers, shorts, or baseball caps).

We started by ordering Frajona vineyard's Žlahtina white (new grape!) from Vrbnik on the island of Krk (which lost heavily in the Battle for the Vowels), and enjoying some good soft whole wheat bread and olive oil (natch) along with it.
Noštromo is famous for its fish, of course, which they show you on a tray, and occasionally flap around to show you how fresh it is.  
We chose a bright red scorpion (new fish!) big enough for two, which came back grilled perfectly and swimming in smoky oil, with big lemon wedges to squeeze.  
Also, because it seems to be the national side dish, a plate of smothered chard with potatoes. 

We don't usually yearn for desserts, but as we nibbled away at our fish, we saw a couple having martini glasses full of local strawberries with maraschino (not the sickly red stuff, but a real liqueur).  Unfortunately they were out of the strawberries, but our kind headwaiter got us each a plate of sliced melon with a couple of strawberries and a cherry, and poured the maraschino over that. 
It's expensive, and cash-only, but as predicted, Noštromo is perfect for a special occasion.

Korta and Paradox

Wednesday 20 May
Right opposite the entry to the Split City Museum, where Asmosia is having its coffee breaks and receptions, is a little alley leading to a quiet small piazza, and the umbrellaceous terrace of Konoba Korta.  It got a good writeup in Time Out, so we thought we'd try it.
We got San Servolo gold, a craft beer in a bottle big enough for two, and a basket of delicious housemade bread with tangy crust, soft sweet crumb, and a scattering of black olives and capers, which we dunked in the smoky olive oil to which we are becoming addicted. 
We were so intrigued by the menu that we had a starter, bukovače sa motrom - oyster mushrooms with "sea fennel," arugula, bits of pršut, and melted cheese.

Prompted by Lauren again, we got a brudet, fish stew of the day's catch - today, cuttlefish and octopus - with swiss chard in a thick savory tomato sauce, with plug of polenta in its middle.  
It came in a massive casserole, and so did our other main, punjeni njoki - i.e. big gnocchi with a shrimp wedged into the center of each one, swimming in a light sweet tomato broth adorned with vongole, tiny shrimp, and two huge spiny prawns like baby lobsters, big enough that we needed bibs and crackers to attack them.  Needless to say, we were both a bit noddy at the afternoon session.
We were still stuffed that evening, so we tried to find a food-light wine-tasting (we need more new grapes!).  Unfortunately our search began with what we now think of as a typical Split experience: a false start due to lack of street signs, a long hike until we found the actual place, and the discovery that what we wanted, the fabled Klub Gurmana i Hedonista, was now closed, and in fact, under reconstruction. 
So we re-crossed Diocletian's Palace to find Paradox, another well-known wine bar behind the National Theater.  Holt asked a nice bearded guy if they had a wine tasting that night, and he said they did, but it was fully booked - and the next one was in November.  We were disappointed, naturally, but sat down to have a glass of wine anyway.  Then the nice guy, who turned out to be Zoran Pejović, who runs the place, came and told us that he had had an extra table moved into the tasting room, just for us.  We were delighted, and soon seated in comfort on their tasting patio, shaded by an actual olive tree in the floor.

The winemaker Gianfranco Kozlović was the guest of honor, and gave us a long talk (in Croatian, but we weren't complaining) plus a full (and we mean full) flight of seven wines, some with several pours, along with some bread and cheese as ballast.
We started with Violetta 2015, a refreshing Merlot 80%, Teran 20%, with overtones of strawberry.
2: a flowery Valle 2014, like a good dry-ish Riesling: 80% Istrian Malvasia, 20% Sauvignon Blanc.
3: a Malvazija 2014, which was almost too light at first, like a blank slate; but it developed as it warmed in the glass.
Barbara's favorite was 4, Santa Lucia 2006, named for its single vineyard; it's an old-vines Istrian Malvasija, aged for a year in oak barrels, and ends up like a major Chardonnay with dried-apple overtones.
5: Teran 2013, a 100% varietal new grape, slightly oaky-tannic but with dark cherry flavors;
6: a new 2014 Muškat from Momjan; and
7: an even more intense 2009 Muškat, redolent of orange peel.

And at last we reeled back to the hotel from a truly wonderful evening, thanks to Zoran.  And we'd have cause to be grateful to him again soon.

Dvor (eventually) and Apetit, Split

Tuesday 19 May
There was a rave-up about Dvor in Time Out, so today we thought we'd go to a nearby beach and hit it for lunch.  But Split turns out to be eccentric about street signs, or indeed any signs you want to see.  They are happy to give out tourist maps, but they only vaguely reflect the actual location of things.  So we walked right past Dvor - no sign - and down to the beach, up to the road, asking local residents every time we could catch one.  And after an hour of walking, we eventually found it tucked into a driveway alongside a tennis club. 
Once finally seated on their pine-shaded and very scenic patio, we were treated to an upscale experience, with well-trained waiters shuttling upscale food from an outdoor kitchen right on the patio to the top terrace and to switchbacks all the way down the cliffside.  We started with wines, of course: Sladić Maraština (the most flavorful) and Graševina Adzic (two new grapes!).  Our very young and serious waiter then brought an amuse bouche of green olives and thin pancake with greens inside, dashed with dark olive oil.  Our mains were sea bass en papillote on a bed of painstakingly diced potatoes and zucchini with herbs; and fresh fettucine and rocket with sauce made of Istrian truffles, sweet wine, and cream.  And as a final touch before our (eventual) swim, there was lagniappe of shotglasses of whipped mascarpone topped with fig. 

Oh, and then there was dinner, for which we had Apetit - no, went to Apetit.  This is a second-floor place with a youngish clientele and a bit of a buzz.  The service was no less assiduous than at Dvor, though more modern, and we got glasses of classic Pošip from Čara and a local Galić Chardonnay blend, to go with the really excellent bread and slightly smoky local olive oil.  
We ordered grilled whole squid with tentacles and roasted vegetables, and fresh panfried hake steak with roast vegetables, and they were simply cooked, sparkling fresh, and beautifully presented. 

If we keep eating full meals at both lunch and dinner, we're going to die; but we'll die happy.

Uje Oil Bar and Pjaca, Split

Monday 18 May

We grabbed lunch at the first streetside place we could find after our Asmosia conference let out (way past time) for lunch.  It turned out to be the Uje oil bar, featured in Time Out Croatia, a near-infallible website that would end up providing us with all the restaurant references to keep us happy throughout our visit.  So Uji didn't only have excellent, smoky oil in the local style, but house-made bread, fine salads, and such fineries as goose pršut (get it?) with its own little prosciutto cutting rack with a goose on it.
At the end of the day on which both Holt and Barbara presented papers, the participants were rewarded by Asmosia with a welcoming drink and hors d'oeuvres of almost architectural style, featuring red and black caviar, anchovies eating their own tails, bits of salami and mozzarella equivalent, and savory tuna.  The welcome was held at the Split city museum, for the display MARMORE LAUDATA BRATTIA about the Brač quarry and its products.

Afterward, we went with John and Annewies, who are also staying at Palace Augubio, to Pjaca (pronounced Piazza) for an evening meal of squid with black squid ink risotto, topped with a little grated cheese (as it never would be in Italy, but delicious for all that); and fresh grilled sea bass, with a mound of roasted vegetables and a drizzle of balsamic on the side. 

A local white Malvasija went perfectly with all of it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Konoba Kod Joze, Split

Sunday 17 May
A good sign when we abandoned the Frankfurt terminal and got on our Croatian Air plane to Split: they handed out, not your typical package of pretzels, but fresh bread rolls with big smears of sour cream cheese and greens inside.  We were going to like Croatia.
After arrival and a nap at our literally palatial B&B, the Palace Augubio, we wandered around Split's Old Town, i.e. Diocletian's palace, getting a sense of the place where our conference was going on for the next week. 
It was about 6:30 PM local time, but our biologic clocks had been thrown off by a day in flight, and our stomachs by Lufthansa's "food."  Our friend Lauren had recommended Konoba Kod Joze, a small unassuming place down a sidestreet north of the palace; she said it had "all the noms," and she was absolutely right, as she often is.
It was so early that there was no one there except for a rather surly family party that had probably been sitting since lunch, smoking and staring at their phones; the chefs and head waiter were up on the terrace enjoying the late afternoon sun.  But they greeted us kindly, and scattered to get some food for these strange outlanders.
We embarked upon our Croatian wine exploration with a bottle of Pošip, which went perfectly with the fishy specialties of the place.  
As the evening was warm, we started with a tender cold octopus (hobotnica) salad with onions and oil; our kind mustachioed waiter brought us the oil cruet, explaining that fish need to swim three times: once in the sea, once in oil, and once in wine.
Tonight's special was kozice raznjic, a risotto made with mangold greens, adorned with two skewers of plump pink shrimps.  We've never had mangolds before, to our knowledge, though apparently mangold hurling is as popular in Somerset as Aunt Sally is in Oxfordshire.
Our other choice was green noodles, i.e. fettucine, with seafood (spageti sa morskim - and forgive the occasional lack of háčeks), including mussels, vongole veraci, and a couple of delicious little prawns.

It was all very Italian, except that in Italy the waiter would have waited about 20 minutes after we'd finished our octopus to think about dawdling up with our next course, and after that would have said "Poi?..." and despised us for not ordering a primo and secondo.  
Here, the waiter brought out the risotto and pasta as soon as the little vongole were gasping from the heat, and we put aside our octopus to deal with them.  
But the two countries are similar in producing delicious foods.